Saturday 30 March 2013

The Danish King Wears the Yellow Star of David

Last week I saw the post that follows on Irene Sendler on my Facebook so I thought I would write about the Jewish resistance but somehow managed to end up writing about the design development of the iPhone – go figure!
Irene Sendler

Irena Sendler

Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98)
Warsaw, Poland

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ulterior motive.

Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried. She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger kids.

Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.

The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.

During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.

Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi's broke both of her legs and arms and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out, in a glass jar that she buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried to reunite the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.
She was not selected.
Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.

Please share this to honour the sacrifice and courage of this fine human being who gave so much and saved so many

The Jewish resistance has long held a deep fascination for me. I practically gobble up any biographical or fiction books that happen to cross my path and enjoy watching movies like Life is Beautiful where the Jews manage to persist despite the best evil intentions of the Nazis. The fascination started way before I discovered my first name (unbeknown to my parents at the time) is actually a good Hebrew name and quite common in Israel. In fact, I think it might have been my parents recounting of the much loved tale about the heroic act of solidarity by Denmark’s King Christian X in 1940 that initially spurred my interest.
The legend has it that when the Germans ordered Jews in occupied Denmark to identify themselves by wearing armbands with yellow stars, King Christian X of Denmark made his daily morning horseback ride through the streets of Copenhagen sporting the star and explaining to citizens that he wears the Star of David as a demonstration of the principal that all Danes are equal. Non-Jewish Danes follow their king's example by wearing the armband as well which prevents the Germans from identifying Jewish citizens thus rendering the order ineffective.
The coins and red & white ribbons worn as a sign of resistance by the Danes during WWII
 As it turns out, unfortunately the whole thing is just a myth albeit a much loved myth and told for a purpose. In fact, Danish Jews never wore the yellow badge either, nor oddly enough did German officials ever issue an order requiring Danish Jews to wear it. The Danes did however perform many symbolic gestures of defiance against their occupiers, such as wearing four coins tied together with red and white ribbons in their buttonholes (some denominations of the Danish coins have a hole in the middle of them). Red and white are the Danish colours, and four coins totalling nine øre represented the date of the occupation, April 9. In 1941 Foreign Minister Erik Scavenius said to Hermann Göring "There is no Jewish question in Denmark".
 It was King Christian X habit to ride his horse alone through Copenhagen every morning to underline his continuing claims for national sovereignty, unarmed and without escort. He became a national symbol for rich and poor alike and he rejected many aspects of the occupation, made speeches against the occupying force and was known as a protector of the Jews. In 1933 he had attended the 100th anniversary of the synagogue in Copenhagen. Reputedly the Rabbi pointed out to the King that given the situation in Germany where the Anti-Semitism was rife it would be understandable if he were to choose not to attend, and the King answered, "Are you mad? Now there’s twice as much reason to attend!" This is actually a true account and not myth and I can absolutely imagine the King saying this because it’s something the Danes say a lot in their vernacular language ‘Er du helt vanvittigt?’ - ‘Are you completely crazy?...’
My Grandfather with my dad in the garden where he helped the Russian POWs

Of course, I had also grown up with stories of my grandfather’s heroics toward ‘enemies of the German State’ during WWII and whilst these weren’t towards Jewish people (who he had no direct contact with) they were towards another mistreated people who did come within his sphere of contact and ability to covertly assist. This is an extract from my dad’s blog post at Popo Mikes Blog (September 2012) ‘A Father’s Day Tale’:
…They were told, the first few times till word got around, that they must be seen in the garden all Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday, come rain, hail or shine.
Not a problem, they were happy to do it and even worked their butts off. It was all a ruse - they got fed lunch and dinner on the Saturday, three square meals on Sunday and a decent early breakfast on the Monday.
It wasn't long before dad was inundated with requests to join the 'extracurricular work detail' - word had gotten around the POW camp of what was going on. Naturally, everybody wanted a good feed and a comfortable sleep in a decent bed. I benefited from the whole arrangement by having lots of 'Uncles' around at weekends to cuddle and play with me.
The full story can be read at
I think if heroic altruism, either covert or overt, is part of your national and familial history it will strongly influence your own perception of life. My dad for example has always been strongly against the death penalty, believing even the worst person has some good in them, and extremely tolerant of people who may be ‘different’ in any way, whether that’s religious, ethnic, cultural or individually. I know it has certainly influenced me greatly in becoming the ultra-tolerant person I am today – I can put up with all sorts of idiots ;-) – as well as some aspects of my personality that my children share. Conversation with eldest daughter yesterday when we were doing the long 4 hour drive from Perth down to visit R in the country:
Venus: ‘Mum do you think you’re an optimist or a pessimist?’
Me: ‘I feel positive I’m an Optimist ;-)’
Venus: ‘I think you’re an Extreme-Optimist!’

Maybe that’s why I like to read books and watch movies where good will triumph over evil – oh, and I hate it when the guy doesn’t get the girl in end – hopeless romantic I know.

1 comment:

  1. I think the king also climbed up to the top of his castle and put the danish flag up again after the germans had taken it down